Thursday, May 05, 2016

Can I Talk About This?

Yes, I can! Although that could change if a certain politician were elected president. More on that below.

One of the advantages of no longer being a Peace Corps volunteer is that I can now talk about controversial topics like politics and drug legalization with the locals. As they say, "Be careful what you wish for." My newsfeed is now inundated with political news for the upcoming Philippine election everyday. It can be a little overwhelming. I long for the days when every third story in my newsfeed would be about Pia Wurtzbach, the reigning Miss Universe from the Philippines. Ah, the good old days. Anyway, here's some of my thoughts on two local issues:

1) The Duterte Phenomenon -- it doesn’t matter that he has a terrible human rights record, that he makes terrible jokes about rape, or that he seems to be hiding millions of pesos he didn’t declare. People still love him. I don’t get it. Even some human rights advocates are turning a blind eye to Duterte’s record, which allowed death squads to kill suspected criminals, some turning out to be minors or people mistaken for suspects or just innocent bystanders. With only a few days left before election, I am wary of his possible election because he’s basically the second coming of Ferdinand Marcos. Wait, some people actually want that, so maybe that explains part of his appeal. My only hope is that if he does become president, he does not use death squads (murder, after all, is against the law), gives suspects due process and also that he respect democracy (ie he does not declare martial law). Hey, call me an optimist.

2) Drug Legalization -- much of Duterte’s popularity stems from his supposed crackdown on drug trafficking in Davao, by, well, allowing the death squad to murder suspected traffickers. I think this is entirely the wrong approach when it comes to drugs. Let’s face it. Everyone knows that the drug war is a big failure. Take the case of marijuana, for example.  In the US, many states have now legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. Even the ‘nerdy’ guy who hosts Rick Steves’ Europe, conveniently named Rick Steves, believes that legalizing marijuana is the right way to go. As Willie Nelson says, “Tax it. Regulate it. Legalize it.” Props to Cong. Chungalao of Ifugao province for realizing this hard truth 5 years ago when he introduced legislation calling for the legalization of medical marijuana. He was ahead of his time. Its not too late for the Philippines to realize this hard truth as well. This is the bandwagon they should join.